California has long been considered one of the world’s biggest wine producers – in fact, the Golden State accounts for nearly 90% of all American wine production. Although wine production in California is one third larger than that of Australia, it seems our smaller industry is definitely making its mark Stateside.
Martin Croad, winemaker and owner of Croad Vineyards and Inn, was born and raised in New Zealand but moved to California and threw himself into making wine in a different climate but using his Australian and New Zealand knowledge. He said: “Paso Robles, halfway between LA and San Francisco, is a dry region. We are known for concentrated fruit, particularly Syrah or Shiraz and also the GSMs (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre).”
The region of Paso Robles is extremely different to the cooler growing regions of New Zealand where Martin hails from and where Sauvignon Blanc and Pino dominate the market, due to the warmer temperatures during the day and cooler coastal winds at night. However, he does make a sauvignon blanc in tribute to his roots. “This is more uncommon in the US,” he reveals. “But it’s very popular in our tasting room. I usually joke about placing a small dab of Vegemite in every barrel!”
At the moment, both Californian and Australian wines are shifting away from the higher alcohol and extracted wines that were prevalent in the 1990s and towards lighter weight, finer wines. Martin predicts that both regions will continue to influence each other. He said: “Popular trends in the US such as Chardonnay production in the 80s have always projected into the Australian winemaking culture, while technological trends from Australia and New Zealand have influenced the US heavily.”
The synergy between Californian and New Zealand winemaking is evident in the names of the wines in the Croad range. Martin’s Zinfandel Mourvedre blend is named “Taranaki” after a region in the west of New Zealand's North Island. Others include Aroha (“love”) and Haka.